Frankly the weather is miserable, it is grey, overcast, with strong gusts of wind and persistent showers. It is the sort of day when most sane caravanners would batten down the hatches and put the kettle on.
Lynnie and I are both fans of Ian Dury. The poetic style of his lyrics is brilliant and we often listen to one his CD’s of an evening. As the line in the song Cacka Boom goes, “You won’t have much to talk about if you don’t go on walk about.” So we sort out the waterproofs, pack the picnic and head off.
Last winter whilst still commuting to London I made good use of the BBC iPlayer and watched a number of TV series and was fortunate to catch Hinterland when it was broadcast on BBC4. This excellent crime drama is set around Aberystwyth. The series opened with a murder at Devil’s Bridge. I was struck by the stunning scenery, so it has been on my list of must visit places.
We park at Devil’s Bridge and the rain seems well set in. So we eat our picnic in the car and then get our full waterproofs on. Our walk starts by the Railway Station and heads off along a path that runs to the left of the public toilets, then through a gate and across a field to a stile (not dog friendly) where we lift the boys over. Next we cross a small boggy field to another stile (again not dog friendly).
We join a road and walk uphill for ten minutes or so until we come to a bridleway on our left. This takes us through a farm gate and almost immediately we leave the bridleway and join a footpath leading downhill to a footbridge across the River Mynach. Up the other side we meet another stile (not dog friendly). Across a field and another stile, luckily the dogs can crawl under the adjoining fence here.
We then follow a track and as we get sight of a caravan park ahead of us we turn uphill at a way marked post just in front of a copse. We climb up and then turn right to cross the top of a field and follow waymarkers leading into the woods. We climb gradually to reach a grassy plateau with stunning views.
Crossing the plateau we find a narrow, bracken covered path by a waymarker, this takes us down hill and the shoulder high bracken makes this a challenging journey. We are unable to see where we are placing our feet and there is a steep drop to our right. We meet a stile (you’ve guessed it – not dog friendly).
We descend through sloping woodland on another narrow path. The tall pines give a slightly eerie feel to the wood and there is a steep slope on the right. Lynnie is cautious about this descent. We reach another stile (not dog friendly – Crosby thinks that my picking him up warrants a kiss on the cheek which frankly I could do without!).
Here we join a track and turn left to follow it. On reaching a cottage the path leads us through the garden gate and by the front of the house. The friendly owner (or visitor) explains the path runs around the house and straight on. She has a Labrador identical to Crosby called Rocket. He does not fancy getting too close to my wet boys.
We follow said path and join a track, our walking book is not that clear at this point so we continue down to the river and walk a narrow path along its bank. After fifteen minutes we know we are on the wrong route so turn and retrace our steps. We can clearly see the path of our return loop on the other side of the river, which is too wide and deep for us to cross.
Back behind the house we have to negotiate another stile (more lifting) and then climb around the edge of a rocky outcrop. The high bracken masks the drop but we are wary as we walk around on the wet rocks. Then it is uphill once again to another stile (not dog friendly). By this time my back is complaining from the dog lifting, whereas Dexter and Crosby think it’s a great wheeze.
On this track we carry on at a good pace until we reach a stile on our right, thankfully the boys can crawl under this one. We then descend to cross the small wooden footbridge over the river, this has a stile on it and the boys need lifting again!
On the far side it is boggy but we follow the muddy path and climb a field to follow the waymark posts down to another footbridge over a tributary of the River Mynach. Another bridge with a stile, but this time the boys can get through. We turn right to walk along the riverbank and our walking book now warns that this path might be boggy.
When it says ‘might be boggy’ it is an understatement. It is boggy, very, very boggy. We make steady progress but I sense that Lynnie is not at her best, her feet are wet and it’s raining again. To be honest I take a quick glance and she looks ready to cry. So I avoid eye contact (always best in such circumstances – especially if I am the possible cause of the angst.)
We trudge through a couple of small gates and then reach a farm gate. Our route is through and up the field. The only problem is that on the far side of the gate it is wet, not boggy wet, more like pond wet! But there is no going back and no alternative route so on we go. At this point Lynnie states that she would rather be doing the Spartan Challenge with Lolly tomorrow than being on this walk.
We proceed to another gate and are at last on dry land. But from here we descend into a swampy area around an old lead mine before our final ascent along another boggy route to a farm track. From here it is pleasant walking (though still raining), the path veers downhill and over the river before climbing to join a track that takes us back to the gate we had passed through a few hours earlier. We turn right onto the B4574 and walk back down to Devil’s Bridge.
Devil’s Bridge is unusual in that it is three bridges built on top of each other. The current iron bridge was built in 1901 on top of a stone bridge that had been built in 1753, below both of these is the original bridge believed to have been built between 1075 and 1200.
Legend has it that this particular location, above the Mynach River, was too difficult a place for a human being to build a bridge. So it was built by the Devil on condition that he could have the soul of the first living thing to cross the bridge. On completing the bridge the Devil awaited his reward, but an old lady tricked him by throwing bread on the bridge and her dog went after it, thus being the first living thing to cross the bridge. These days this would warrant a visit from the RSPCA.
There are two turnstiles for walks below the bridge, the longer goes around the waterfalls. The River Mynach falls 300 feet in a series of falls either side of Devils Bridge. The other goes down to get a view of the three bridges and the Devils Punchbowl. We opt for the Punchbowl option and put £1 each in the turnstile.
This is an amazing place, we go down steep steps leading below the bridge and are soon just above the river as it forces its way through the rock, the shapes that the force of the water has carved out over the years are spectacular.
Back at the car we reflect on the day, despite the wet weather (and very wet feet) we have enjoyed our ramble. It would have been very easy to spend the day in the Unicorn reading, but that would have soon been forgotten. We will never forget todays walk or the trip under Devil’s Bridge and the sound of water going through the punchbowl. To borrow another line from Ian Dury’s Cacka Boom “It’s what you haven’t done that matters when you are old”.
(29th August 2014)
[To follow my walk you will need Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 213 – Aberystwyth & Cwm Rheidol]
© Two Dogs and an Awning (2014)